|English | Español||May 23, 2018 | Issue #43|
The People of Oaxaca’s March for Dignity Heads Towards Mexico City
A Conversation with Two Section 22 Teachers on the Long March from Morelos to Mexico State
By Erwin Slim
Photos: D.R. 2006 Erwin Slim
We are leaving the state of Morelos where, on October 2nd, twenty-five-year-old Juan Manuel Castro Patino, a young teacher on the march, died after suffering a heart attack. On entering Mexico State, memory drives us to remember Atenco, and the repressive politics of the federal and state governments against social movements. The inhabitants of each town we pass offer drinks to those marching, or simply express their support, shouting: “Be strong! You’re not alone!” The technique for alleviating the pain of blisters and sore feet is wet-wipes in the shoes.
1st Teacher:“This march is going to continue,” the first teacher said “Ulises or no, we are going to the Senate and we have to get to Mexico City; it’s an agreement determined by 2,500 assembly delegates. Five or six days after Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) leaves we’ll go back to the classrooms, but we know that the fight is never over; we have slogans that speak of constant struggle. If this conflict is resolved now, we’d have to continue fighting for a special school timetable and get a normal year for the whole state, and they have to pay what they owe us. In this way the movement can spread, the fight is not over.”
What would be the next phase of the struggle if Ulises Ruiz leaves the Oaxacan government?
“We have these politicians who only know about brooms in theory, or from diagrams, because they don’t even sweep their own homes, and yet they alone decide what the people will get, even though the money belongs to the people. How many millions of pesos does it cost to send all these army and navy troops into our state?”
1st Teacher, between tears: “What’s happening makes me mad and the people won’t tolerate it. They are defending themselves. When URO started the repression the people put up barricades on their own, nobody told them to do it; it was self-defense. They defended themselves and URO couldn’t continue with his repressive intimidation tactics.”
1st Teacher: “Now we realize that the people can change things. We have engineers, professionals, architects, and other people ready to represent their common interests, with love and respect for their people. That’s why the federal government is so afraid of dropping Ulises Ruiz. Felipe Calderón could be dropped too, and that’s why they’re defending URO. The people are waking up!
And in the case of a military incursion?
1st Teacher: “It’s like lighting a wick: the whole country would explode into dissent. It’s already been seen in the case of the EZLN. Through this process they are strengthening the struggles of all Mexico, principally those of the indigenous.
“Those in government are thinking hard about what to do because they know that if they make one false move, many communities, from the mountain ranges of Juárez to all other regions, will come down upon them, not by road but by mountain. The people are so united by these repressions that they are strengthened, and if things continue on, Calderon won’t be able to govern. What we want for our people is legitimate. This tremendous force is waking up the people, and we will achieve our goals!”
Those that have tents pitch them on the spot, and for those that don’t, a simple tarp or piece of cardboard makes the floor feel less cold and hard. A woman complains of the intense pain in her feet, while some of her friends help by massaging, saying “it’s worth the effort; if it’s for the good of the people, it’s worth it.”
I can sense and feel that the people that make up this march are sincere, smiling all the time, projecting an atmosphere of legitimate and tireless struggle. None of the looks or smiles that I capture with my camera are false or hypocritical, unlike those personalities that we’ve become accustomed to in the present rotten institutional politics. The attitude and transparency of their eyes accentuates the tenacity of their fight for justice. Money is not important, because having to borrow cash, having to pawn belongings, having to sell the car, and other solutions all sustain this struggle of the common good, where they share in hope. All this while so many politicians and businessmen – which are ultimately one and the same (like Alfredo Harp Helú, ex-owner of BANAMEX, beneficiary of Fobaprao and brother of Carlos Slim Helú, third richest man in the world) – call meetings between themselves to see how their personal interests in Oaxaca are being affected.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism